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Last update : 2015/09/21

UNIVERSAL SENSOR FOR DSLR



In this article, I propose to make an universal detector for high speed photography.
This detector can be achieved even by people without knowledge in electronics.
I'll give you as much detail to achieve it by yourself, pictures of illustrations will help you
to make and achieve the "Universal sensor for DSLR" without any problems, it is a DIY detector.
The universal detector includes a light sensor for the detection by infrared barrier, barrier laser,
change light. It also includes a microphone for detecting sound, an audio input for connecting a radio
and serve as a lightning detector, detector of shooting star, sync with sound.
This is actually an evolution of my lightning detector but with much more possibilities.

It is based microcontroller, which allows you to set the time before the outbreak of the DSLR or flash.
It is equipped with two independent outputs.
It can be controlled via a USB cable with a computer (You can use it with my video detector for webcam, for example).
It embeds directly an infrared LED, to do detection by a reflection barrier (for photos of drops of water for example).
The light sensor can be used with a laser, with infrared, natural light, light bulbs.
It features a highly sensitive microphone and I created a noise filter which allows to use the microphone in a noisy environment.
He has an interval timer function, for do an intervallometer.
It has a "LINE IN" input to connect a radio and transform it, in a lightning detector, for exemple.
It has an "AUX" input for connecting any other outdoor detector.
It is possible to trigger several times during a detection, the outputs (similar to a burst mode).
it can also be connected to a 9 volt battery for be independent, or to apower supply of 9-12 volts, or the cigarette lighter of the car.
The time to onset ("DELAY") or duration ("DURATION") of trigger can be adjusted from 0 microseconds to 1 hour.
The minimum time to detect and trigger is 40 microseconds in digital detection mode, 140 microseconds in the manual mode(analog)
and 150 microseconds in the filter noise mode. For recall, a microsecond is a millionth of second.
So this sensor is ideal for making a high-speed photography.
Example, in digital mode (40 microseconds of time to triggering a flash), it is possible to photograph a bullet of
assault rifle, that move up to 1200 meters per second.
Between detection, and the fires flash, the bullet will have traveled: (1200 / 1000000) * 40 = 0,048 meters, it is only 4.8cms !!

You now have the mouth water (french expression), it's time to get down to business.
I made the choice to separate each small electronic module by function to simplify its implementation.
Each module consists of 2 3-component electronics.
So it is easier to achieve for a person with no electronics knowledge, rather than a single electronic board, with full
of components.
The heart of the detector is based on a microcontroller. This may scare some of you and yet ...
I chose to use an Arduino UNO microcontroller based on an Atmega 328.
The Arduino board is very easy to use, plug on computer, and especially to programmed it by yourself, because you do simply
connect the Arduino by USB in your computer, install the driver,
and use a program that I made myself to transfer the software in the Arduino.
So do not panic, read more, I will explain everything in detail.

For the cost of construction (complete and in box), it is about 100 to 120 Dollards (25 Dollards for the box,
20 Dollards for the Arduino, 15 Dollards for the LCD display and about 25 to 35 Dollards of electronic components).
I give you on the forum (List of Components)
the complete list of components that I bought with the price of each component, and websites to get them.
A detector previously manufactured, purchased commercially, will cost over 1300 Dollards !!

On the Photo01, you can see an overview of the universal detector in its housing.
Photo01 (4), the box is open and you can see an overview of the various small electronic modules and the Arduino with the LCD display.
As you can see, there are plenty of empty space, I hope this reassures you because as I said before,
this detector is not very hard to achieve.

On the Photo02 (1), I present to you the ARDUINO UNO (the heart of the system). This card has connectors, so there will
not need to do solder on this card.
The photo02 (2) shows the electrical connection diagram of the ARDUINO: a 9-volt battery, a switch, a female power plug
to receive a power supply of 9 to 12 volts, and a male power plug for powered the Arduino board. Easy!
On the photo02 (3) I show you the first two small modules that we have to done. There is no electronic component,
they serve only to link the son of the different modules.
Photo02 (4), the Arduino board, the two connection modules and LCD display module, they fit together via the connectors.

This is the first module to be made (photo03), this is the most large connection card. It has no electronic components,
just connectors. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the soldering iron!
The technique to weld is simple:
- Drag the component or the connector in the hole
- Introduce the soldering iron between the paw of the component and the printed circuit (PCB) pre-drilled
- Approach the tin wire with your other hand to bring it into contact with the soldering iron (quickly),
to bring it into contact with the soldering iron, the component and the circuit.
- The tin wire dissolves, the weld is made.
Never leave the soldering iron over 2 to 4 seconds in contact with the component to be welded.
If the weld is poorly done, let cool 10 to 20 seconds by blowing on the electronic component and start over.
On the Photo03 (1), the necessary equipment: two 6-pin connectors, one 8-pin connector and a printed circuit pre-drilled.
Cut the printed circuit board in bands pre-drilled, as in photo03 (2). Count the number of holes to get the right size.
Caution!! It must be cut the tracks as shown by the red arrow on the photo03 (2), to avoid short circuits!
On the photo03 (3), the connectors is soldered on the PCB. On the photo03 (4), a bottom view, the solder side view.
For the realization of all the modules, just count the holes to properly place components and cut all printed circuit (PCB).

For the second module that serves as a connection for the son,
used an 8-pin connector and a small piece of PCB (photo04 (1)).
On the photo04 (3) and photo04 (4), the 8-pin connector soldered to the PCB.

The microphone is just a module that I bought on Ebay, 5 Dollards (shipping included) from China.
The delivery time from China, take approximately 3-5 weeks, be patient.
I also bought the ARDUINO UNO card (19 Dollards, shipping included) and the LCD display (13 Dollards, shipping included) on Ebay from China.
For the most pessimistic, buying on Ebay from China, Hong Kong, are secured through the payment by Paypal,
which is a bank, and offers a money back guarantee in case of non delivery.
I buy quite often on Ebay from China and I never, never had a problem (for amounts less than 100-150 Dollards).
The only problem is the delivery time who is long (3-5 weeks) but it allows for great discounts.
Example for the ARDUINO UNO card: 19 Dollards including shipping from China, while costs 32 Dollards shipping to France (my country).
But if do not want to buy on Ebay, http://www.robotshop.com website offers this type of component and delivers worldwide.
Go to the forum link,that I gave you earlier, there are all the details and references.
So on the Photo05 (1), you can see the microphone module. It is tiny, perfectly suited for the Arduino
it is very sensitive, it is perfect.
On Photo05 (2), this is the wiring diagram of the microphone connection on the connection Card.
For not to be mistaken, count the holes:
- The blue wire is welded to the fourth row of holes starting from the right (A2)
- The black wire is soldered to the tenth row of holes starting from the right (GND)
- The red wire is connected directly to the central terminal of the switch.
The names (A2 and GND) are on the Arduino UNO card (photo02 (1)), if you want to check the connections.

The entry "AUX" is used to connect an external detector,it consists of a female 3.5 mm Stereo Jack (Photo05 (3)).
If you want to connect an external sensor, simply plug it into "GND" for the masses, and "SENSOR OUTPUT" for the signal.
I also made ??available, a + 5 volts power at the end of the jack, it can feed directly into the external detector,
provided that it does not consume more than 10 to 20 mA. Otherwise, it will need an external power
for this detector.
On the Photo05 (4), the wiring diagram of the jack plug (count the holes ...)

For now, nothing complicated in implementation.
This is the first module with electronic components to be welded.
This is the infrared LED. This module consists of an infrared LED, a resistor and a switch.
On the Photo06 (1), the component side of the module, on the photo06 (2) the circuit board side (PCB).
The scheme is simple, photo06 (3), the switch is connected to + 9 to 12 Volts.
The resistance of 120 ohms (5 Watt!) Is in series with the LED Infrared (Colors: brown, red, brown).
there is always a fourth color band on a resistor (often gold) who is tolerance: 1%, 5%, 10%.
Sometimes there is also a fifth ring color.
On the Photo06 (4), I created a top view of the module to properly solder the components.
The resistance does not make sense but the infrared LED must have the long leg to the + 9 to 12 Volts.
Look again the photo06 (1), the infrared LED to a small dish side that identifies the direction of connection.
If you have any doubt about the connection of LED, there is a simple way to test for proper operation.
To test the operation of an infrared LED (exemple: the infrared LED of a TV remote control)
just take a camera (SLR or compact camera) and use the LCD of your camera.
The human eye can not see infrared, but the sensor of your camera can clearly see the infrared.
Take the test with your television remote control, it's magic !!

The second module with electronics components is the light sensor (photo07).
There are three components: two resistors and a photodiode BPW24.
On the Photo07 (1) and on the photo07 (2), the photodiode welded with the two resistors.
I chose a photodiode BPW24 because it is sensitive to visible light but also to infrared light.
It was mainly a detection time of 7 ns (7 ns, this is 7 billionths of a second !!!).
On the photo07 (3), the block diagram.
On the Photo07 (4), a top view of the module. Beware, there is a keyed represented by the red arrow to put the
photodiode in the right direction. For resistors, there is no direction, you just put the resistor 100kOhm to +,
and the resistor 1MOhm (Mega ohms) to ground or GND.
To recognize the resistance:
- The resistor of a 100kOhm,have colors: colors Brown, Black and Yellow
- The resistor of a 1MOhm, have rings colors: Brown, Black and Green
The leg (or pin) of the photodiode which have keyed, is connected to the A1 input of the ARDUINO, photo07 (4).
For specific needs, it may be necessary to have the light sensor independent of the box (connected by a wire).
If this is the case for you, just realize this module in double and connect the sensor via an external jack to the input "AUX".

We will now make the electronic module for the "LINE IN", which allows you to connect a radio, an output
HIFI headphones to synchronize the music or sound.
On the Photo08 (1), a view of the components side, On the Photo08 (2), the solder side.
This module consists of two resistors of 10KOhms (brown, black, orange) and a 47uF capacitor (microfarads).
The sound is a voltage that can have values ??up of -0.75 Volt to +0.75 Volt.
ARDUINO card does not accept negative voltages, so we will achieve with the two resistors, what we call a bridge
voltage divider (voltage of 5 volts provided by the Arduino then divided by two: 2.5 Volts).
Audio and voltage values ??will be up of +1.75 Volts to +3.25 Volts, instead of-0.75V to +0.75 V.
The capacitor has a insulation voltage DC role for the radio or the headphone output of the HIFI,because headphone output
don't allow a voltage of 2.5 Volts.
On the Photo08 (3), the block diagram. For the capacitor wiring direction, just look at the length of the legs, there is a
longer than the other. The chemical capacitors still have a band either white or black to locate the mass (or less).
On the Photo08 (4) is the layout card. Connect the module to the A3 input of the Arduino (row 3 starting at the right).

And here's the latest electronic module to achieve. This is the module of the two outputs.
On the Photo09 (1), you can see that I used as H11D1 optocoupler but you can use a 4N26 much cheaper.
The H11D1 can withstand voltages up to 300 volts, it may be useful to link on a old silver flashes, that sometimes,
have voltages of 200 volts or 250 to the hot shoe.
The 4N26 can support more than 30 volts, which is more than enough to support flash and digital SLR, that
operates with 5 volts.
The switching time of H11D1 and 4N26 is 4uS (micro seconds).
On the Photo09 (2), this is the solder side view. CAUTION !! Look closely the arrow! I cut the tracks to avoid
Short circuits in optocouplers. We must therefore cut these tracks as indicated by the arrow.
The block diagram, Photo09 (3), shows that the module is composed of two identical parts, one part for output "OUT1"
and one part for output "OUT2".
To achieve this module will therefore require two optocouplers 4N26, two LEDs and 4 resistors of 300 Ohms (orange, orange, brown).
LEDs are used to display if the output is active, provided that the time duration ("duration") is greater than the speed of
perception of the human eye. I chose to use to see the LED output status, and not to use the LCD
to optimize the internal code in the Arduino, and especially the speed of detection, beacause the display is slow (speed in milliseconds).
Do not use LED too bright, because they may disturb your photo session if it is done in complete darkness.
Photo09 (4), the wiring of the module. Be careful to connect the LED in the right direction, they have one leg longer than the other.
To help you, watching the red arrows.
The optocouplers have a mark on the top or keyed. It is often a small circle in a corner, or a semicircle on one side.
We must therefore put the two optocouplers in the right direction.
This module connects to the small connection board as shown in Photo09 (4).

Here, we have finalize the electronic modules, it remains to put the together in a box.
I researched the ideal box, and I found this box: G968GS manufactured by VELLEMAN
I bought 25 Dollards (19 Euros) on http://www.E44.fr website (French website)
It is perfect in height to accommodate the ARDUINO card, the connection modules and the LCD display.
To make the buttons, I used an old TV remote control (Photo10 (2)).
The Keys (4 keys) make up the keyboard menu navigation.
Photo10, different views of the inside of the box and we will have to make cuts to accommodate the assembly.
For screen printing, I used transparent adhesive for laser printers that can be bought online, in
A4 by packs of 10 sheets.

On the Photo11, the operating diagram of the menu to navigate.
This diagram is difficult to read on small computer screens, it is present in the ZIP file: menu.jpg.
To move around the menu, use the left and right keys on the keyboard.
To change values??, use the up and down on the keyboard.
The principle is simple:
You choose the sensor or the function
-Then you choose the type of detection, if necessary. There is a choice between how "DIGITAL", "NOISE FILTER" or "MANUAL"
For the micro or "LINE IN", the "NOISE FILTER" is perfect.
For a laser barrier, the mode "DIGITAL" is best with a detection "ON LOWER"
For use of infrared diode integrated into box, take for example the "MANUAL" mode with detection "ON UPPER"
You choose if it detected when the value is greater ("ON UPPER") or if lower ("ON LOWER").
- You give a period before the outbreak ("DELAY1") of the output "OUT1" of 0uS to 1 hour.
This is useful for the detection of a drop of water.
- You give a duration (or "DURATION") to allow time to trigger the reflex camera or trigger the flash.
- Choose if you using the output "OUT 2"
- Define the Delay of the output "OUT2"
- Define the duration of the output "OUT2"
- And finally define the repetition ("REPEAT") which allows to repeat the sequence "OUT1" "OUT2" up to 200 times.
This can be useful to the burst mode with flash, for example to break an action or movement.
To start detection will require, in the last menu, click on the button up or down key to start the detection.

The electronic part is over, it remains to program the Arduino (transfer the program that I provided).
To begin, download the ZIP file "Universal Sensor DSLR XXXXXX.zip" present in the "Download" section from this site.
(XXXX represents the version of ZIP, this version may change if there are changes or corrections after your return).
Unzip the ZIP file in a directory, for exemple "c: \ TEMP"
The ZIP file contains three directories:
- The directory "drivers" who contiend drivers that will be used to recognize the Arduino board by the computer.
- The directory "Donwload Into ARDUINO program" who contain the program to transfer the code in the Arduino board.
- The directory "Universal Sensor for DSLR easy configuration" that contains a program that allows you to change the values of detection.
This configures the detection without using the four buttons and permit to easily change the values ??of timing, duration, ...


Programming the Arduino:

- Connect the Arduino to a USB port on your computer (Windows XP, Vista)
- Windows detects a new USB device, if Windows can not find the drivers of the Arduino, specify the location of driver
I provide (eg, c: \ TEMP \ DRIVERS). To successfully install the driver (or drivers) on Windows, read
this link: Installation guide
- Now that the Arduino is properly recognized and installed on the computer, launch the "Download Program in Arduino.exe"
present in the folder "c:\TEMP\Download program Into ARDUINO" and click on the button "Download the program".
A message will inform you that the programming operation is completed.
It's over, your "Universal Sensor for DSLR" is ready, you can start making high-speed photography, detect
sound events or light.

Photo12 on the right, you can see an image of the "Download Program in Arduino.exe"
Photo12 on the left, is an image of the last program, the "Universal DSLR Sensor for easy configuration.exe"
present in the folder "c:\TEMP\Universal DSLR Sensor for easy configuration"
This program is very useful when you need to change the values of delay and / or duration as in this case, the 4-button keypad is not
convenient to give, for example a value of 1S 135mS 45uS.
When you change the values in the program "Universal DSLR Sensor for easy configuration"
click on "Send configuration" (arrow 2) to update the configuration in the Arduino.
If you change the values with the 4-button keypad, the program "Universal DSLR Sensor for easy configuration" is automatically updated.
If you click the "Start" button, it triggers the detection as if you had launched the detection via the keyboard of the box.
The arrow of the photo13, shows the measured value (valid in "MANUAL" mode) that allows to know the level and then
to set a detection value.


Example of use:

- To detect the passage of an object, using a laser for example, with the light sensor ("LIGHT SENSOR").
Put detection mode in "DIGITAL", "ON LOWER" and set the time delay after the trigger you want.
The duration will remain on one second to allow time to trigger the reflex camera (or flash).

- To detect the passage of a water droplet with infrared barrier (distance between the sensor and the water drop, about 20-30 cms).
Use the light sensor ("LIGHT SENSOR") in "MANUAL" mode with infrared LED light on.
If the current value is 16, then you give a value of 20, and detection set to "ON UPPER".
when the water drop passes the light sensor, the value will be greater than 20 (exemple 35) because the water drop will
reflect the infrared light. As detection is "ON UPPER", output "OUT1" will fire after
settings "DELAYOU1" and "DURATIONOUT1" you choose.
If the droplet is very small, use a laser with detection in "MANUAL", value "1000", "ON LOWER".

- To detect the bursting of a balloon, use the microphone ("MIC") and the filter noise ("NOISE FILTER").
Set the filter noise to 10% and detection "ON UPPER". Place the detector from 20 to 70 cms of the ballon, following the time
that you want photograph. The bursting of a balloon is an event so fast speed that the DSLR will not have time
to trigger this. We must therefore, put themselves in the dark, put the DSLR in long exposures (2 to 5 seconds) and use a flash
set to the minimum of its power (1/64 or 1/128). Trigger the camera and then pop the balloon with a needle. the trigger detector
the flash in 150uS time.

- To detect lightning, connect a radio to the "LINE IN", set at 1600 kHz on AM and volume almost to maximum.
Set the detection to "LINE IN" with the filter noise ("NOISE FILTER"), choose a value of 3% (tested this day).
The detector will trigger the camera directly with a delay of 0 and a duration of 1 second.
Remember to put the focus in manual mode (and if possible all in manual mode to speed up the start: white balance,
focus, ISO, shutter speed, aperture).

-To use the "video detector for Photography", set the detection to "COMPUTER", set the delay ("DELAY") and
duration ("DURATION") and click on "START", then launch the "video detector for photography". To use this detector
video, there is a section on this site (in the left menu). On a motion of an object or a person in the frame, it
trigger the reflex or flash depending on the settings you have made.



To connect one or some flashes on the outputs OUT1 and OUT2, use a mono jack (the long leg to the ground) and
connect the jack to the flash hot shoe (Google search "flash hot shoe").
To connect the output OUT1 to a reflex camera, you should used taking remote control of your DSLR.
Canon is a jack. For Nikon, it is a special outlet, just buy a wired remote control for your DSLR
(Look on Ebay is cheap from China), open it, to put the jack to the output OUT1 from the "universal sensor for DSLR".


I hope that with all these indications, tips, and photos, you will be able to make this DIY yourself.
In case of difficulty or questions, go to the forum and ask your questions:
Questions and answers

The full list of components, suppliers and price is indicated on the forum, click on the link above.


You will find in the forum, in the "ABSTRACT OR EXPERIMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHY", my first attempts of high speed photography
with this "universal detector for DSLR".


From the Photo13 at the Photo18, some examples of the accuracy of the detector and its use.
The tests were made ??with a laser barrier to detect the passage of water droplets.
The laser of 2 mW was placed about 1 meter of the light sensor.
The detector was set to "MANUAL", value "1000" and "ON LOWER THAN".
The detector triggers the flash directly. The flash is set to 1/64 of its power for short flashes and freeze the motion.
The reflex is triggered manually, and is in long pause (2 seconds) and focus manually.

On the Photo13, I drew a red line to see the laser beam.
The droplet has traveled about 3 millimeters before the flash fires.
On Photo14, several drops of water were frozen on the same picture (about 3 drops per second, and DSLR in long pause of 2 seconds).
There is a slight overlap for all the drops,
because these do not have exactly the same size and these do not fall exactly the same way (in air and water),
it is the chaos theory.
On the Photo15, the detector is set to "MANUAL", value "1000", "ON LOWER THAN" DelayOut1 = 0,
DurationOut1 of 1ms, DelayOut2 = 0, DurationOut2 = 20ms and Repeat = 10.
I used the output OUT2 to create a delay of 20ms between each flash (fire) of the flash.
This is the same drop of water photographed on a single photo of 2 seconds but with 10 lightning flash every 20 milliseconds.
This allows to decompose a movement, for example. Photo16, yet another shot with 10 lightning flash (REPEAT 10) every 20ms (Using OUT2).
Photo17, 3 photos side by side to show you the precision and regularity of the detector.
Photo18, 4 photos of the coffee cup, a single lightning flash (REPEAT = 1) without use of OUT2 and with DELAYOUT1 of 150ms,
to photograph the drop of water as it enters the coffee in the coffee cup.

To start the detection, press the key "DOWN" or the key "UP", or click on "start"
in the program "Universal sensor for DSLR easy configuration".
To stop the detector, press the key "UP" or the key "RIGHT".


If you make this detector, feel free to post some pictures in the forum.
It's always nice to have a return of use.

For information, I suggest you, to watch the "Photographer Tools", which is the new universal sensor.
This "Photographer Tools" offers many new opportunities and is a project in constant evolution,
unlike the universal detector.




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Reproduction in whole or in part, photographs and texts, without permission, is strictly prohibited.
Any commercial use of this arrangement is subject to intellectual property rights.
So thank you not to reproduce or distribute internet images and texts of this DIY.
Implementation and use of this DIY is allowed in a personal or school environment.




Copyright 2011 - 2013 ThierryD - http://rienquepourlesyeux.free.fr
Last update 07/07/2013
Reproduction prohibited

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